Editor’s Note: Responses have been edited for clarity and length.
There’s no one word to describe Bri Hall. The singer-songwriter, influencer and motivational speaker is also a YouTube star, beauty guru and adored artist. She also has over 250k followers on Instagram, which has given her the opportunity to collaborate with brands like Clavin Klein and Suave. Possibly the most impressive is the artist’s humanitarian efforts. Earlier this year, Hall fundraised over $3000 and collected school supplies and vitamins, and proceeded to fly to Ethiopia to deliver them to the children in person.
While her YouTube career began in college as an outlet for her art and a way to use her platform to address social justice issues, the 24-year-old has just created an alter ego, La Hara, to fulfill her musical dreams. Her new single, “Mindful,“ is full of emotion and soul. It began as a poem written to her dedicated father, but following her trip to Ethiopia, has blossomed into many more meanings.
I sat down with Bri Hall to learn more about “Mindful” and all the other meaningful projects she’s involved in.
Ariel Zedric: Tell me about creating your YouTube channel and the type of videos you post!
Bri Hall: I created my channel in what felt like a spur of the moment but was honestly years in the making. I noticed as an “art kid” that all of the dancers, singers, and musicians could perform their talents on the spot. Whereas drawing and animating you could only see the finished product at an art show. I wanted a way to showcase my art, makeup, and hair in a way where viewers wouldn’t just have to see the final result, they could view the process. YouTube was the perfect platform to get really creative and show viewers more.
You’ve already given a Tedx Talk, TEDxBethesda, what was that experience like? Would you consider giving another one? If so, on what topic?
I spoke it into existence in high school that I would do a TEDx Talk before the age of 30 or a motivational speech. I remember waiting backstage by the steps, walking on the stage and forgetting everything I was going to say. For some this seems like a nightmare, for me, I’ve always felt a calling as a motivational speaker, so it was a big advantage. The spotlight was beaming on me, my slideshow was behind me and I remember taking a deep breath and saying, “this is yours to tell, it’s nothing to recall,” in my head. Something snapped inside of me and the rest just flowed so naturally. I would love to give another TEDx talk – probably about mental health or an even deeper topic this time around.
Your influence on social media is undeniable, how do you balance what you do and what you show the world? How big of a role does social media play in your life? How do you stop it from being too draining?
I feel this immense responsibility to touch lives through my social media. Sometimes I will tell my followers what I need to hear, and that helps me with not being overwhelmed. It’s still surreal, to the point that I’ll go out to a department store or to get groceries and have huge imposter syndrome. To hear someone say that I changed their life and what my channel means to them is the most beautiful and amazing thing I could have ever asked for. I am still human though, so sometimes after a giant greek salad with red onions I’m like, “girl please don’t breathe in their direction and scare them away!” I think my biggest challenge has been being a perfectionist – with the help of my amazing family and friends I’m remembering that my supporters will love me in any form as long as I’m myself and kind.
What made you make the decision to transition into music?
For my longtime friends, it’s so ironic because they ask, “what made you decide to transition into hair and makeup?” I feel like music and art is at the core of my being and beauty has always been an additional layer/extension to that. I was always terrified to release music because I know it’s a genre of high influence that’s also heavily criticized/critiqued. I asked myself almost every day last year “are you prepared for people to dislike your art regardless of who you are and what you do because art is subjective?” I reached a point where I thought “no one is ever prepared for this, the best preparation is to take action.” I have notebooks stacked with songs that I’ve been writing in for years; I can’t wait to share them and continue to grow with everyone listening.
Tell me about your alter musical ego, La Hara! How did you decide on a name?
La Hara represents the artist in me who’s able to be more straight forward and candid. Influencers often are living under this pressured image of perfection so La Hara is my breaking free from that and saying to my audience my greatest videos and art has come from joy, love, and suffering. It’s okay to be imperfect as long as you’re growing and being you. My name is inspired by one of my biggest inspirations Jean-Michel Basquiat, a risk taker who made no topic off limits through his work and promotional techniques.
What’s the inspiration behind your new single, “Mindful”?
When I wrote “Mindful“ I was on a plane home from Los Angeles and I was thinking about some really heavy topics on this journey. In person, I seem to have it all together but I really do value my friendships, family, and relationships so much. I imagined what it would be like if I was in a room with all of the people who ever put me last, doubted me, or let me down and could finally say what I wanted to say without a filter. Then mid-song I realized, that’s a great fantasy, but you know them, what would really happen. So many people avoid conflict, and by doing so we also avoid communication altogether. I imaged myself in raw emotion with tears in my eyes finally removing the blindfold of avoidance. I thought, “today is my day, today you will see and hear me.”
How do you think your upbringing and your culture has affected your music style?
There’s a lot of duality in my upbringing which I hope to showcase more in-depth in my upcoming music. I’ve lived in two social classes, I lived in two polar opposite racial environments for school, and even in two unique upbringing styles. My experiences and music, more often than not, will be coming from two or more points of view and will be up to my listeners’ interpretation.
You’ve already been involved in some humanitarian projects, tell me about them! What was it like traveling to Ethiopia?
I can’t begin to explain a trip that changed my entire life. I feel like there’s no concrete way to explain the amount of humility, emotional wealth, and culture I was immersed in. Being a Woman of Color from America, it felt as though I was seeing clearly for the first time. My textbooks never told me how utterly beautiful the bone structure and strong genetic traits were or how rich the culture would be. My textbooks, like many other young children of color, showed me that I was a product of slavery, poverty and tragedy.
Everyone worked together in such amazing harmony, including the animals. All of the food was organic. I felt so at peace. Helping create content and working with the organizations was just a cherry on top. In America, my hair has been referred to as “wild,” “crazy,” or “interesting.” In Ethiopia, everyone had hair just like me even if it was straightened. The level of representation sent me home with a new set of confidence. I have some amazing endeavors approaching as I plan more trips to Africa next year!
What’s it like being so young and so influential? Is the pressure ever overwhelming?
It’s amazing because I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface on my potential. It feels like creators are getting younger each day but I want to help young people and anyone in a transitional period of life. I feel like leaving high school is an experience no one prepared us for, adding in navigating influence on top of that can be challenging. I’m grateful more than anything else. I know that everyone won’t fully understand what I’m doing. Sometimes I don’t even understand it, but I just know it’s my calling to make big changes in this world while I’m here.
Explain the personal and professional struggles you’ve encountered in the music and media industry thus far. How have they molded you?
I feel like to positives definitely outweigh everything! I want my audience and readers to know that “no” is a huge part of the process because it makes “yes” that much more meaningful. When I released music I kind of threw it out there, ducked, and covered not sure what to expect. I feel so humbled by the response and the media outlets, such as Affinity, who have become trailblazers in telling my story.
What’s it like being a female of color in the music and/or media industry?
I’m feeling so motivated to make some things shake in the industry. I’m seeing so many important conversations happen around race, gender, and genre. I want to tell stories and do them in a way that suits the art. At the end of the day, I feel like women and men of color have done so much to shape popular culture and it’s time for us to keep taking stands.
Tell me about a moment in your career that has left you both extremely proud.
A highlight moment for me was working with Google because Google has had such a large impact on my life. I’m young and was still able to be there to see it grow from just starting out, growing up in the millennial age range. To see something start, become so powerful and helpful, and then have this powerful company say “we admire what you do” – that was unforgettable.
Who is your biggest inspiration? Why?
My biggest inspiration is time because I’ve realized how precious it can be. I also love creating experiences, to have someone see a video or listen to a song and think… I experienced something here, is my biggest inspiration.
What message do you want your fans to take away from your music?
If I could be the music you play on a long drive that inspires you to call a friend when you get home or live in your truth, I feel like I’ve succeeded. I just want to encourage thought but not the tedious everyday stuff we think about. I want people to really zone out and think about things that are important to them. I really just wanna attract some cool artsy oddballs who can relate as well.
Featured image courtesy of Bri Hall